In creating a new venture,
knowing whom not to listen to is as important as absorbing good advice
Jack Yan is founder and CEO of Jack Yan & Associates and
president of JY&A Consulting.
THIS WEEK is pretty important to me as a publisher (as well as a professional
brand consultant and typeface designer). In late 2003, I made an unusual decision:
to turn a web property I owned into a print magazine. It was, by and large,
unprecedented in the world of publishing (one other publisher had done it at
that point). In the days ahead, Ill personally work on a brand extension
to the print magazine, but, more importantly, see the launch of Lucire
in Romania. I didnt do it alone; the key was listening to the right people
and rejecting all that was wrong with 20th-century business.
I wont say the path was an easy one. The web magazine
is number two in Google, slipping every
now and then to third when Condé
Nast has a good week, but we could have owned the online fashion category
if we wished. To give up the title of the worlds leading online-only fashion
magazine in favour of becoming just web-and-print title was not an option, either.
Instead, Lucire had to become something special.
The story has been told before: the twenty-ﬁrst-century
brand must have social responsibility. It is vital for a brands survival today.
Secondly, it is important today for a magazine, regardless
of medium, to have constant contact with its readers.
Thirdly, while think global, act local has its merits,
it is the era of think global, act global, and it matters not that
one has a small business.
But the story is not complete. The rest of the story is about
what we blankly rejected because it was démodé and irrelevant
for 21st century business.
It may be very cocky to say this only after two editions,
one in Australasia and one in Europe, but I like to think of Lucire
as part of a global movement. We began it online, where global movements are
commonplace. I refer not to Ebay or Google, but socially responsible groups
such as TakingITGlobal. I am closely
involved in one, the Medinge Group, which
is made up of the worlds top branding authoritieswhere we do look
at changing our part of the world by making brands more transparent and honest.
I refer to those informal networks of people who band together because they
see the opportunity to effect change. whether its privately hosted or
If you are in publishing and you didnt notice this, then,
in my opinion, you are in trouble.
Its that spirit that, despite having come from the
end of the 20th century, was a vanguard of the next century. In the 1990s, postmodern
critique was fashionable. In branding, No
Logo was the seminal moment, Something had to give, and I proposed
the concept of moral
globalization; I talked about how brands could become more human, even
more spiritual. The consumer movement couldnt be ignored, either: it came
of age in the last decade.
Those who suggest that we continue branding just as we always
did, maybe by putting up an extra sheen and give social responsibility mere
lip service, are misguided. I had to ignore them.
But there was one thing that I knew, but didnt want
to believe. For years, I resisted doing a print edition. Print was seen by the
digiratti as a retrograde step. But here we are in the 2000s and
the allure of print is as strong as ever. Nearly all those people who said they
would stop buying tabloids when Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed were killed
(or assassinated) have failed to keep their promise. Since were not going
to change millennias worth of habits, we decided we had to be part of
the print world.
However, that world had things I didnt like. Largesse,
arrogance and formality. I am blessed to have never formerly worked in the industries
I have chosen to work in: consulting, software and media. We joked about JY&A
Consulting being the anti-McKinsey long before they were handing out books
on their work for Enron. And in the months before Lucire approached
launch, we heard that we were the anti-Vogue. Well, I was
born on the anniversary of Condé
Nasts passing, so perhaps there is some meaning there.
If I was to spend this much money, then some things had to
be done in the way Lucire had evolved, never losing the character
or the values we found in the 1990s.
That meant the lean structure of the web site had to stay.
That meant that we did not complete three months worth of articles before launch,
because that would not afford us any chance to adapt to consumers. It meant
trusting your team to create articles and artwork that represented the magazines
ethos. It even meant putting aside the idea of traditional demographics because
based on my observation of consumer behaviour on the web, the budget-premium
distinction had disappeared. It meant listening to everyone from advertisers
to consumers, and treat them respectfully. And if this magazine was to have
a chance in exporting, either in intellectual property or physical magazines,
it had to consider New Zealand as part of a global society.
I cant say this was all laid out before me the months before
October 4, 2004, our New Zealand launch date. Nor was I totally sure of my own
capabilities. But I imagine most of us felt it deep down, and with hindsight,
we can now see the bigger picture.
A lot of this came from the selection of the right people
or just trusting that they would be there: Phillip Johnson has stuck by us through
thick and thin, for a start. Lisa Tardrew, our director of advertising, contrasts
her rivals and is, therefore, our ﬁnest ambassador in Auckland, New Zealand.
Nicola Brockie, our editor-in-chief, has managed to maintain a level head during
all the growing pains. For ﬁve out of six covers (and likely seven out
of eight), Jessica Tarazi created world-class make-up. Doug Rimington, a photographer
who doesnt distinguish between classes of people. Fiona Barnett, who understands
global design. Printers who knew my record. Folks on our team who are too numerous
to mention. All are internationally minded people, adopting an attitude that
is a necessity.
Since then, weve had Americans tell us that its
the antipodean version of W
(we actually had Vogue
in our sights rather than anything of Mr Fairchilds), and others believe
we might be the benchmark, at least in our home country, for our sector. I hope
so. Or that at least we lead in some ways, helping our readers, and helping
our advertisers connect properly in an age of segmentation and consumer democracy
Our attitude remains, nonetheless, informal. And that is
what drew the Lucire Romania team and head ofﬁce together. Mirella
and Valentin Lapusca have done a magniﬁcent job of re-creating Lucire
there, following the ethos of the master edition, our harnessing
everything from FedEx to web servers. The magazine may be physically shorter
there, measuring the same width but A4 in height, but there is no denying that,
with its New Zealand-designed typefaces, it is Lucire.
I salute our Romanian team. Mirella and Valentin took a chance
on our vision after we had delivered only two issues to the New Zealand and
Australian public. That was when I knew that our relationship would be founded
on trust ﬁrst. The contract we executed merely became a formality. In
some countries I can name, mistrust would have come ﬁrst, the contract
a document to live and die by. But I hold those values of the United
Nations Declaration of Human Rights dear to me: innocent till
proved guilty are not only words, they are a good way to do business.
Due process is in the Fifth
Amendment, though on some days I wonder.
However, it is an underlying belief even in our coverage
and the issues we get involved in. As a member of the media, I stand for what
my company stands for: ethical solutions with the strongest awareness of integrity,
rights and freedoms. Thats my declaration and Lucire, that organic
brand, that global movement, is living proof of it.
One day, Id like to see more countries with their own Lucires.
There is no secret that I would like to see it Stateside, run like a New Zealand
magazine. Good business is a mixture of high-stress and Shell be right, that
slogan beloved of antipodeans. There are other markets, too, ones that are willing
to see how a 21st-century title can be run. Nationals in those countries I would
like to connect with, and humbly await their consideration.
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